Rag Picker…Remembering Maya.

Few more years earlier….

That evening, five years ago, after handing over all day’s alms, Chotu, as usual, walked towards his favorite secret corner. It was quiet, aloof from the rest of the kids, the only place he loved to be in. But today the silence and the loneliness there was accompanied by a little girl, who gave an ailing smile as he stood towering over her. It was a smile that bore the pain, nervousness, and exhaustion, these emotions could not escape a seven-year-old Chotu’s eye. He jutted out his arms towards her with a closed fist. Confused little girl look at his hand and stared back at him. He nodded as if to say “take it, it’s for you.” the girl obediently extended her palm out before him. She glittered with joy to see Cadbury’s GEMS, sugar-coated toffees, her favorite toffees placed on her hands. A new friendship was born, but neither did they know it would be so short-lived.

It was Maya, with whom he learned to smile; it was she who ultimately set him free. Maya was the only friend he had. The Nexus soon regretted kidnapping her, when they realized that she suffered from Asthma. They could not afford the treatment which ultimately killed her. Stating out of the door next to him, he was lamenting over losing her.

 “Boss, we need to fix him once and for all.”  The same fox faced man with long air said.  The person whom he was addressing was seated on the chair, responded with a nod.

“No Boss, we have to do something this time. He is causing too many problems. What he did today is going to encourage others too.” He spoke again.

“I know, and I have a plan for him. Cannot let him go. He will have to pay for his action.” Getting up from his seat, a tall blurry man, spoke caressing his bald skull.

“Let’s get him killed.” The second one spoke.

“No let’s take his eyes off that way he will bring more money to us”, said the fox faced man.

“No, this will not be enough for him; I want him to see himself suffering, helplessly. He will have to lose his strength. He should never be able to walk now. Get ready for amputation guys.” He walked out and both and rest followed.

Far in a dark corner, the twelve-year-old Chotu had his ears into the entire conversation.

He knew it was now or never. He didn’t want to lose his legs, so he silently stealth out of the room without alerting any of the men there and ran for his life. He ran for his freedom. He ran like never before.

He got into a train whose destination was not known to him.

“Hey wake up. What is your berth number? Show me your ticket.” The ticket collector’s loud voice woke him up. He was not in the state of mind to give any excuses. As the train slowing to halt in some station, he leaped off and entered a whole new world. Raipur!

The City that he first inhaled the breath of free life was Raipur. Freedom was something he had never experienced; he had spent his life taking orders and that’s what he had expertise in. He helplessly wandered on the empty quiet roads with just a few dogs barking in distance. It was dawning as birds were getting ready for the day’s work. He saw boys, men, and women walking around collecting junk. He followed one of them who went straight to the dealer to sell the scrap.

“Hey you boy, what are you doing here?” the scrap dealer noticed him standing in the corner, yelled at him.

Trying to avoid him, the boy looked away. “Hey, you! Come here… hey Chotu!” he gestured him to come to him. The name Chotu, made his emotions race and he yelled back.

“My name is not Chotu! Did you hear me? Don’t ever call me that.”

Your presence is an of hope for me, brings a smile to me. You are the light for me; I will call you “Deepak’ the night before her death Maya had given him the name.

 “Call me Deepak!”

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